Holder also made his most extensive comments to date on a proposal to renew the Voting Rights Act.
He credited a bipartisan bill, introduced last week by Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat, and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner for going a “long way” towards addressing the Supreme Court’s ruling against the law last June. However, Holder said the bill should patrol voter ID laws more assertively.
“If we can show that that photo ID efforts are done inappropriately and for improper reasons,” Holder said, “that ought to be the basis for federal intervention.”
The bill only counts voter ID violations found by a court – not violations filed by the Justice Department – to trigger supervision of local voting rules. That’s a less stringent approach than the original Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it relies less on the Attorney General’s judgment than the original law.
Holder had strong words for Republicans who use voter ID laws to suppress or distort voter turnout.
“People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he said, but it must not be used “to disenfranchise” people for racial or “partisan reasons.” While some GOP lawmakers may have a “good faith” concern here, Holder said, others are disingenuously “using it for partisan advantage.”
“The reality is that all the studies show that this whole question of ballot integrity, in-person voter fraud – simply does not exist,” he stressed. Given all the data, Holder contended, Republicans’ fixation on voter ID suggests “a remedy in search of a problem.” ”It is being used, in too many instances,” he continued, “to depress the vote of particular groups of people who are not supportive of the party that is advancing these photo ID measures.”